Pet Health, Senior Dogs

Do dog bones help my dog’s teeth? (According to Science)

Dog lovers have various ways to fight tooth decay but any dog or human dentist would say it is best to use the dental tool that is easiest that will get done, which is why we asked the question do dog bones help my dog’s teeth?  If so, that may save on some brushing time and really get done if all we have to do is give our dog a bone!

pug looking into the camera with an underbite and tooth hanging out

Answering the question “Do Dog Bones help my dog’s teeth?”

Well lucky for that we found a scientific study to answer our question.  The study was conducted at Rutgers University by Lindsey Gallagher and was designed to determine which, if any, of these options can help reduce the bacterial load on a dog’s teeth.  To do this the study examined the change in bacteria after treatment with either 

-CET toothpaste and brushing, 

-VeggieDent chews, 

-bully stick chews, and 

-raw bones. 


Why dogs need clean teeth


The study notes as we also discuss in our article Senior Dog Bad Breath and Senior Dog Dental Care that many bacteria species normally colonize human and animal oral cavities. Plaque forms when these bacteria are allowed to accumulate on the teeth. Periodontal disease resulting from plaque buildup is a common problem in both humans and animals. About 20% of one-year-old dogs and over 80% of three-year-old dogs suffer from periodontal disease (Kortegaard, Eriksen et al. 2008). Periodontal disease can result in pockets along the gum line, cavies, and necessary tooth extractions. 


As we also noted in our Senior Dog Dental Article, periodontal disease causes problems not just in the mouth, but throughout the entire dog’s body as well. One study has even shown a correlation between increased periodontal disease and increased changes in the atrioventricular valves as well as increased kidney and liver disease in poodles (Pavlica, Petelin et al. 2008)

Additionally, as your dog ages dental issues can be a primary source of chronic pain.  See our article Three Sources of Chronic Pain that Your Dog May be Hiding

I thought Brushing My Dog’s Teeth Was the Best Way to Keep Them Clean?

This recent study questions that even thought veterinarians often recommend brushing your dog’s teeth every day as the ideal option for promoting oral health, while offering other products, such as dog dental chews, when brushing your dog’s teeth every day is not feasible for dog owners.  


In several studies, researchers have found that brushing your dog’s teeth every day is the best way to prevent tartar (Gorrel and Rawlings 1996) including one study that showed that beagle dogs did not develop periodontitis or gingivitis on the side of their mouths that had been brushed daily (Lindhe 1973) and another that dental chews also help reduce dog tarter accumulation, especially when used in conjunction with brushing a dog’s teeth (Gorrel and Bierer 1999). 


However, a majority of studies until this were about brushing your dog’s teeth as opposed to finding alternatives to brushing your dog’s teeth.


dog eatingWhile we know that brushing our dog’s teeth is of utmost importance we are happy to report that there are other ways to clean your dog’s teeth that have been shown by science to work very well!


Alternative to Ways to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth 


This study by Rutgers researchers aimed to determine how effective canine toothpaste, dental chews, and natural chews are at reducing canine oral bacteria found on the teeth.


The researchers indicated that if chews reduced bacteria to the same or a similar level as dog toothpaste does, these would be an easier method of dental cleaning for dog owners and a potentially less stressful method for the dogs.

person brushing the teeth a dog that is beige and grey

In addition, some owners might be more inclined to try a natural chew.   Ultimately, understanding the effect of these options would also help owners and their dogs!


Best Treatments for Cleaning Dog’s Teeth


The researchers found that each of the treatments was successful in reducing the number of bacteria on a dog’s teeth with the following reductions noted:


-Raw bones (Raw beef marrow bones were used in this experiment. The dogs were allowed to chew on the bone for 30 minutes) 79% reduction in bacteria

-CET toothpaste and brushing (enzymatic toothpaste applied with a finger)  70.3% reduction in bacteria, 

Bully stick chews (corkscrew bully about 6 inches in length) 60.2% reduction in bacteria,

-VeggieDent chews 54.6% reduction in bacteria 

Dog Infographic on the best products to clean dog's teeth

The researchers indicated that none of the treatments were statistically different from each other (p=0.330) and that this experiment shows that dog owners have a variety of effective ways of keeping their dogs’ teeth and gums healthy.  So in the end pinning your dog down and giving them a brush seems to be able to be replaced by giving them a raw marrow bone!  


See our article on the Meaning of Throw Your Dog a Bone and How to Give a Dog Bone Safely to Your Dog


In Conclusion


We know caring for our dog’s teeth is important now there is an easier way!  Even senior dogs enjoy raw bones and likely can manage but the earlier you start with preventive tooth care the better. 

Discover more about Dental Care in Senior Dogs here

Choosing the best food for Older Dogs With Few Teeth Here